If you're reading this, chances are:
01. You're in a punk band 02. You want to write your own material, but can't get the hang of it, and so figure covers might help give you a kick-start 03. You've heard some punk covers before, and want to know how the hell they did it.
The key point to remember when making a punk cover version is that the song should be reasonably simple in terms of structure - ideally based around a verse and chorus only. For my first punk cover, the inspiration came from an unlikely place. I was at a karaoke night in the bar I work at, having a drink, when the call came for someone to sing Flashdance (What A Feeling) by Irene Cara. The song started out very well, but at about halfway through, the singing degenerated. At this point my friend Foster turned to me and said "With some heavy guitar backing that'd make a great punk cover".
The next day I formulated a plan. I searched the internet for a chord sequence for the song (because, to my suprise, this site didn't have it). When I found one, I noticed that the song is in the key of Bb. Understandably annoyed at the usage of a low Eb, I decided to move all chords up 1 fret, making the song in the much happier key of B.
The next dilemma was how to perform the song. For those of you who have listened to the song before, there is a small introduction, and 2 verses with a very soft feel to them. For the introduction, I decided to use clean, chorused chords, as that would create a false sense of security for the unaware listener, and a greater contrast for later on. Then, from there on in, I used an overdriven sound with a singlecoil pickup, and changed all chords to powerchords (I let them ring during the first 2 verses, and then kept them mostly muted) for simplicity's sake. I also removed a chord change to low E at the end of the verses, as I felt that it over-complicated the playing, as was only hit once as a passing chord to F#.
From this, I learnt the simplest way to create punk covers:
01. Find the original song transcribed (chord sequences can sometimes be better for this) and identify the key of the song. Consider changing to a "whole note" major key (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) if it would make the song sound better. 02. Identify any hooks or riffs which are essential to the song, and make a note to keep them as close to the original as possible (in the case of Flashdance, during the "What a feeling/Please believe it" line at the beginning of the chorus, there is a stop-start feel with chord changes) This ensures a memorable performance. 03. Convert the song over to power chords, and decide whether to implement full chords at any point in the song. Consider getting your bassist to play the major-minor notes of the powerchords as a complementary "harmony". This gives you the raw sound of power chords, but will make the song more structured. 04. Decide whether or not the song would benefit from a different tempo (In Flashdance, the sections after the first 2 verses were sped up).
For songs with a guitar solo, the decision whether to include the original solo or just to construct one based around the scale of the song, is a decision best taken based on the merits of each song. For some more inspiration, check out the New Found Glory movie soundtrack album, Goldfinger's version of Nene Simone's "99 Red Balloons", or the Sid Vicious version of Frank Sinatra's "My Way".
I'll try and get an article for acoustic covers up as soon as I can, so you can start planning your unplugged gigs. Until then...